Wisdom from Bryan Caplan

by Russ Roberts on April 8, 2011

in Politics

Bryan is now 40 and in honor of the occasion (and to prevent melancholy, or at least so he says), he lists 40 things he has learned. I think many of them are actually true. All of the list is worth reading. My favorite, I think, is this insight:

Democrats and Republicans are about as different as Catholics and Protestants – and 80% of the union of their mutual recriminations is true.

Earlier tonight I chanced upon this tweet from one CTLiberalMom:

@lcranston1939 it’s not OUR future the Rethuglican’t are worried about.The USA is one big corporate opportunity for them.

Of course Democrats raise a fair amount of money from business as well and Democrats overwhelmingly supported the bailouts of large financial institutions. On foreign policy, President Obama seems as adventurous, profligate, and oblivious to the future (days not weeks, no boots on the ground!) as a President McCain would have been. I wonder how much of our political problems come from misplaced partisanship. I am reminded of this Adam Smith quote from The Theory of Moral Sentiments:

So partial are the views of mankind with regard to the propriety of their own conduct, both at the time of action and after it; and so difficult is it for them to view it in the light in which any indifferent spectator would consider it. But if it was by a peculiar faculty, such as the moral sense is supposed to be, that they judged of their own conduct, if they were endued with a particular power of perception, which distinguished the beauty or deformity of passions and affections; as their own passions would be more immeDiately exposed to the view of this faculty, it would judge with more accuracy concerning them, than concerning those of other men, of which it had only a more distant prospect.

This self-deceit, this fatal weakness of mankind, is the source of half the disorders of human life. If we saw ourselves in the light in which othersseeus, or in which they would seeus if they knew all, a reformation would generally be unavoidable. We could not otherwise endure the sight.

Happy Birthday, Bryan.

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DG Lesvic April 8, 2011 at 4:24 am

He’s got problems, at 40. I’m pushing 80, almost twice as old, and not nearly twice as smart.

Ike April 8, 2011 at 7:07 am

To say there is a dime’s-worth of difference between our Republicans and Democrats would be more devaluing of the dime than either of their aggregate monetary policies.

Rick Caird April 8, 2011 at 7:37 am

My rule of thumb is anyone who says “Rethuglican” or “Dimocrat” or any such variant, has nothing to say worth hearing.

Methinks1776 April 8, 2011 at 8:54 am

What about “Demonrats”, “Democraps” and “Repubics”?

It’s a way to blow off steam. Better than spraying them with bullets. Maybe.

Randy April 8, 2011 at 9:56 am

To the extent that making up name slurs for one party or the other is an example of falling into the divide and rule strategy of the political class, I tend to agree with your statement. But I think that disrespect for the political class as a whole is very important. They spend trillions on propaganda to enhance their prestige and subsequent power to exploit. Any strategy for limited government must begin with counter-propaganda, aka, disrespect for the political class.

kyle8 April 8, 2011 at 7:52 am

I cannot agree.
It doesn’t seem very obvions to me that there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats. Sure under Bush, the republicans spent too much and got involved in foriegn adventurism. But they also cut taxes, cut some regulations on business, and promoted freer trade.

In just two years the Democrats have spent far more than the Republicans spent in eight years, they have placed enormous new regulations on business, they have been rattling the anti-trade sabers, and have proven to also be interested in foriegn entanglments.

I don’t see how you can look at the absolute speed in which we are headed toward institutional bankruptcy as a nation and say the are “just the same”.

That is just sophistry. I am not a Republican partisan, but I sure am an Anti-Democrat.

Ike April 8, 2011 at 9:13 am

Ask yourself how many of President Obama’s decisions would be radically different than a Republican alternative?

The mistake we make is that we pay attention to those silly platform plank documents at the conventions, which are designed to highlight differences — and we ignore the 95% of everything else where they are in agreement.

kyle8 April 8, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Ok I asked myself that, and I came up with, well nearly all of them!

No Republican would have spent over two trillion in additional spending. No Republican would have passed the unread health reform bill. And No Republican would be trying to use regulation to destroy the domestic oil industry, or take over the Internet.

Really, that old “not a dime Worth’s of difference ” thing is getting old. There is a world of difference.

Once, again, I am not pro-Republican, but goddam it, the Democrats are destroying us.

brotio April 8, 2011 at 6:13 pm


And add:

One party is in favor of unilateral personal disarmament.

One party is in favor of termination of inconvenient life.

One party believes that it is racist to verify citizenship before allowing a person to vote.

One party believes that union organizers should know the names and addresses of people voting against union certification.

There are also instances where the Dimocraps
[HT: Rick Caird :) ] have staked positions less offensive to libertarians, and other individualists, but the Democratic Party is the official party of the State, and there are differences. If you plan to vote and want a snowball’s chance that the candidate you vote for is going to win, your choice is between a Democrat, or a Republican.

rpl April 10, 2011 at 12:52 pm

None of the things that you “came up with” have any basis in fact. They are all supposition based on what you want to believe.

Doc Merlin April 8, 2011 at 7:58 am

Left wing groups actually do better than right wings groups in Fortune 500 company donations. This is surprising considering during the data cycle that this data was taken on, republicans controlled congress the entire time and controlled the white house most of the time.


While I disagree with a lot of what the republicans say, what democrats say bad about republicans is almost always more true for the dems than the reps.

Frank33328 April 8, 2011 at 9:04 am

The most profund comment to me was “The main output of government isn’t “public goods,” but private goods that people pretend to want much more than they really do.”

Scott G April 8, 2011 at 11:56 am

I have to say that Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids is one of the most ingenious ways of packaging one of Julian Simon’s greatest ideas.

Thanks much Dr. Caplan. I wonder how large the economic stimulus to the world will be from the who-knows-how-many-more children that will exist because of your new book.

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